HUMZA Yousaf has stressed that Scotland is “past the worst” in a surge of new cases of Covid-19 – but waned caution is still needed in lifting remaining restrictions.
On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon will confirm the Scottish Government’s plans to move Scotland to level 0 on July 19 when social distancing rules could be axed before moving the country to ‘beyond level 0’ on the provisional date of August 9.
Scotland has experienced a surge in the number of daily cases reported – leading to fears that easing restrictions further could result in the spread of infections continuing to rise.
But Scotland’s Health Secretary has suggested that the tide is turning and we may now be over the peak of a surge in cases.
Speaking on the Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf pointed to Scotland having a “slightly lower immunity” before the third wave hit and the impact of Euro 2020 events being held in Glasgow as contributing to the surge.
He added: “From the data I’ve seen over the last week…optimistically I think we can say we are past the worst of the peak – this particular peak.
“That doesn’t mean that there won’t be another peak in the future, but certainly we’re beginning to see a stabilisation and beginning to see the cases level off. They are still very high, I must say, but we’re beginning to see a positive trend.
“The data in the last week shows us that this is the first week in four weeks that we’ve seen cases reduce not increase, so that’s positive.”
But the Health Secretary warned that “it is a very fragile situation”.
He pointed to UK Government data that last week showed Scottish local authorities made up five of the top 10 hotspots – but that has now reduced to just two, Dundee and Midlothian.
Mr Yousaf said: “We’re still too high, not where we want to be, but we’re seeing an optimistic picture that we are beginning to hopefully level off.
“This is a time to be cautious not cavalier, because if we open up and lift restrictions entirely, which is not what we’re planning to do on July 19 – if we were to be cavalier and not have any restrictions in place whatsoever then I think that could take us backwards as opposed to the very small, cautious, positive steps that we’re beginning to see in the data over the past week.”
The Health Secretary was asked about UK Government modelling that suggests when restrictions are lifted in England, by the middle of next month there would be around 100,000 cases of the virus UK-wide.
Mr Yousaf would not give a figure on Scottish expectations of potential case rises, instead pointing to “robust case modelling” taking place by officials.
He added: “We certainly wouldn’t want to tolerate that level of cases here in Scotland. We are going to take a step-by-step approach.
“Having high case numbers, although we are not seeing the same translation into hospitalisation, still causes pressures on our NHS but also of course, there are people who will live with long Covid and there will be some impacts on them too.”